I REFER to the controversies surrounding the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine (HKAM). I fully agree with the view expressed by W.M. Chow in her letter headlined, 'Medical academy's time rule so unfair' (South China Morning Post, April 17).
I am however, more concerned about the consequences of the unconditional recognition of the academy by the Hong Kong Government. It is, after all, the public who will suffer most.
The legislation regarding the registration of Hong Kong specialists (medical specialists, for example, physicians, surgeons etc), is believed to be in the pipeline, although there has been little press coverage about it. It would be disastrous if only fellows of the HKAM were admitted into this registry. My view is based on the following facts: Some academy fellows (and even foundation fellows) are admitted under the 'grandfather clause' and are therefore not in possession of a higher qualification acquired through examination. These people should, in my opinion, be given an honorary fellowship. In some countries, such as Australia, an honorary fellowship, does not allow a person to have specialist status.
A general practitioner would not know which specialist has the knowledge expected of them and which does not. He/she would have difficulty choosing the most suitable one for the patient.
Medicine is a dynamic profession. There are established specialties and the 'newer specialities', such as, aviation medicine, sports medicine, medical administration, occupational medicine and rehabilitation medicine. These are just a few of the groups not represented in the academy. They are not commonly practised in Hong Kong at present, but in many overseas countries, people in these categories are recognised as specialists in their own right. If a general practitioner wants to, say, refer a patient to a specialist in sports medicine, how will he know which one to choose, if none appear on the registry? When the academy was being formed, the opinions of only about two dozen senior members of the medical profession were taken into account. I hope the Government will consult the public and all members of the medical profession when it drafts the specialists' registration legislation.
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